OTTUMWA - For 35 years, Connie Griffith was a flight attendant.But when she retired in 2001, a different dream took wing, and she enrolled in art classes with the goal of becoming a full-time artist.This spring, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute."I had always wanted to go to art school," said Griffith, who was born in Ottumwa, "but I grew up at a time when girls were expected to become nurses, secretaries, teachers and, eventually, mothers."
As a student at North High School
in Des Moines, she
received a scholarship to study at the Des Moines Art Center
, an experience that gave her
"the hunger" to go into art, but instead, her
father insisted she
study for a teacher's certificate.She
spent a semester at Northwest Missouri State Teacher's College
before dropping out.She
worked at an insurance company and then as a dental assistant until she
was 21 - old enough to join Trans World Airlines
as a flight attendant.She
retired in 2001, one week before American Airlines
. In 2002, she became a full-time student at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.In 2005, she transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute as a full-time student pursuing a BFA degree in ceramics.
"I felt as if I had been starving for years, and I didn't know what to eat first," she
took classes in drawing, sculpture, metalsmithing, silversmithing and ceramics - everything the two-year college offered in art except for painting.At a "First Friday" gallery walk in Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District she met a Kansas City Art Institute representative who encouraged her to apply, and she was able to enroll as a junior.She
hopes to open her
own studio in the Kansas City area and teach art to underprivileged children.She looks forward to partnering with other artists who are interested in seeking a grant that will allow them to set up a facility and obtain equipment.She
has already exhibited her
work in about a dozen group and solo shows.
can cut here if need
"My experience with the airline affected my art," she
said."I had opportunities for exposure to so many different cultures."Although her
memories include images of poverty and people living in strife, she
also recalls the beauty of countries like Portugal, where "people live simply and though not wealthy, are so giving."Twice she
went to Honduras with medical teams, using her
dental-assistant experience to help provide dental services to hundreds of people.Griffith
sees art as an outward expression of internal feelings.She
believes art can be a means of self-discovery for both children and adults."Art provides a way for you to learn about yourself through what you create," she
said."It allows you to release feelings and emotions, and you grow through that."Griffith
has learned much about herself by making art.Her
ceramics pieces often take the form of people or animals, perhaps not surprising when you consider she
bred and showed Dobermans for 18 years.She
also raised her
own house-trained raccoon named "Rascal" for 14 years.
Being a 50-something person surrounded by 20-something fellow students has had its ups and downs, she
said."It's lonely, because I'm not really part of their age group," she
said, "but I've learned so much from these young people."She
quoted a great aunt who used to tell her
, "Our bodies may get old, but our minds are young.